(Last Updated on : 21/05/2009)
The Ahobila Math has an ancient history behind its establishment. It is said that, Srinivasacharya was the first pontiff or Jiyar of the Ahobila Math, as the spiritual heads of this ancient institution are called. Srinivasacharya was born in August 1379 AD, to Kidambi Keshavacharya, a renowned Vaishnava saint, who lived in Tirunarayana-puram (Melkote) in Karnataka. As Keshavacharya noticed the sharp intelligence of his son, he sent him to Kanchipuram to learn from Ghatikasatam Ammal, the grandson of the famous Nadadur Ammal, who belonged to the 'sishya parampara' of the legendary Ramanuja.
When Srinivasacharya became twenty years old, he had a dream in which Lord Lakshmi Narasimha asked him to leave for Ahobila immediately. The lion-lord, Azhagiya Singar or Lord Narasimha, emerged from his idol in the form of an austere, a sanyasi. He prompted Srinivasacharya into the ascetic order and named him 'Adivan Satakopa'. And thus the Ahobila Math was started of which Adivan Sathakopa became the first pontiff or Jiyar. The meaning of the name of Adivam goes like this, 'adi' and 'van' meaning 'first and powerful'. The stone pillar of the Ahobila Math contains the story of its initiation, which was written by carving on the stone pillar in the Ranga mandapa of the Lower Ahobila temple.
It is said that after the initiation of the Ahobila Math, the lord asked the Jiyar to go from place to place and propagate Vaishnavism. When Jiyar was wondering which idol to carry during his tours, then the figurine of Lord Lakshmi Narasimha manifested on his outstretched palms. Since then, that very idol is worshipped as the sanctum sanctorum of the Math and the Jiyars of Ahobila Math, travel only with this idol of the Lord.
The idol of Lord Vishnu in the Ahobila Math is fondly known as the 'Malola Narasimha' because he is in the company of Goddess Lakshmi. In this idol he is seen wearing 'padukas' (slippers) on his feet, which indicates as if he is ready for travel. There is another story relating to the first jiyar, 'Adivan Sathakopan' of the Ahobila Math. It is believed that the foremost amongst Vaishnava saints, Swami Nammalvar, pleased with the Jiyar's services, conferred the title on the great saint. Apart from this, he also gave the Jiyar, a gold ring with the legendary bird, hamsa, carved on it. This ring can be seen till today in the fingers of the Ahobila Math Jiyars.
The antiquity and the glory of the Ahobila Math are confirmed from the various inscriptions and evidences. This Math and its pontiffs have attracted the masses, feudatories and chieftains of several regions including the Orissa, Pandya and Vijaya-nagar kings. Later, the Ahobila Math grew to be an influential institution and played active role in spreading the Vaishnavism. The Ahobila Math Acharya has become great spiritual leaders and renowned scholars. They have written several books on various branches of Vaishnavite literature. The Ahobila Math has now become a sacred place of pilgrimage to the Vaishnavites and has seen forty-five dedicated Acharya till today.